Is Burbank City Council’s Vision Still 20/20?

Reservoir #1 is nearing completion as seen during the fourth open house held this past Saturday (Photo By Craig Sherwood)

Thoughts From the Bullpen…

By Craig Sherwood
myBurbank Executive Editor

When Burbank Park, Recreation & Community Services Board member Terre Hirsch spoke recently at the dedication ceremonies for the Verdugo Park Pool, he talked about the vision of the City 60 years ago when they created facilities like the Verdugo and McCambridge Recreation Centers and their facilities.

There is no doubt as we progress in years and in development, that areas for parkland are diminishing as fast as new condo projects are proposed.  Let’s face it, a city makes far more off the property tax that a development will bring in over the years then it does for a park.

Reservoir #1 is nearing completion as seen during the fourth open house held this past Saturday  (Photo By Craig Sherwood)
Reservoir #1 is nearing completion as seen during a recent open house (Photo By Craig Sherwood)

At this time, the Reservoir #1 project is about to come to an end with a completely redesigned reservoir that will stand for decades to come. The reservoir is designed and constructed in some of the same ways as the reservoir that is under the ball fields at Brace Park.  In fact, both reservoirs are exactly 904 feet above sea level, allowing them to work together.

At the time, city officials had a vision of creating a park and sports facility at Brace Park to give the residents in that part of the city some green area to recreate and enjoy.

So the question is, why are we not looking to do the same thing at Reservoir #1?  Is there still a vision of looking toward the future?

Some might argue about the cost of creating a new park project.  While the economy is today’s concern (and should be in some areas), this is a project that will benefit generations to come.  Today’s bad economy will be in the history books while parents continue to bring their children to a park.

And if you really are worried about today’s dollars, then consider the fact that the Reservoir #1 project is not only coming in on time, but also UNDER budget. Possibly, there might be unspent dollars available that could go into a park area thus not having to allocate an entire new funding package.

Because the area is close to a residential area and to save money, lighting for games does not have to be installed.  This would make the area a ‘daytime’ park area for sporting events (soccer field, basketball courts possibly) while keeping the noise down after 8:00 p.m.

According to Michael Thompson, Principal Civil Engineer for the City of Burbank overseeing the project, the roof of Reservoir #1 was designed to be possibly put to use. “The roof was designed to accommodate two feet of dirt so if someone else wanted to put a field on top of the reservoir, or any number of other uses, they could.”

(City of Burbank)
(City of Burbank)

In case you are concerned (and rightly so) about parking, the lot of the church down the street could be used (as it is now also for Palm Park, which also has a reservoir underneath) for some parking needs as well as the area leading up to the reservoir that is now being used for construction equipment.  Also, let’s not forget Bel Aire Ball Field (also on top of a reservoir), which has no on-site parking at all, so the precedent has been established.

And let’s not stop with a sports field on the reservoir.

According to sources, extra dirt that has been removed during the construction was placed in a canyon just above the Reservoir #1 area, leaving a large, flat area that has separate access via a road above, as well as a possible walkway leading from the current construction.

So what is is needed and has been talked about in Burbank?  How about a dog park?

It would be a great area that could easily be enclosed, as well as somewhat off the beaten path and could be an extension of anything to be built.  It would be connected, yet above a sports facility, so animals would not be distracted when running around.  With the current legislation that was currently just passed by Burbank’s Assemblyman, Mike Gatto, the path has been cleared for the City’s liability in establishing a community dog park.

And finally, about that name, Reservoir #1…

Really does not roll off the tongue, does it?  Talking to community activist (and local historian) Mike Nolan, he talked about a recent push to rename the reservoir after a former Burbank Mayor and large proponent of recycled water even before it became part of our daily lives in Burbank.

Earle C. Blais was a man who had many visions, especially when it came to water. According to city records he was actively involved in many community organizations, served on the Burbank City Council from 1953-1957 and was the youngest person at that time to serve as mayor from 1954-1956.

He was appointed Burbank’s Director to the Board of the Metropolitan Water District in 1961, served on the board for 25 years and was Chairman of the Board for two terms from 1979 to 1983. He was a major supporter and public advocate for the Peripheral Canal in the 1982 statewide referendum. He resigned from the Board in 1985 to focus on his private law practice.

Yes, I know about the controversies about naming rights in the City, but except for one, they have been done responsibly in my humble opinion.  Naming Olive Park for George Izay was the right thing, after a man who gave his life to Burbank Park & Rec as well as naming the individual fields also after individuals who gave most of their professional life to Burbank.

The only bad footnote to that was taking a proud baseball man, Lefty Thomas, who had the baseball field named after him, converting to a softball field.  I am sure he still shakes his head in the afterlife.

Naming Pacific Park after Burbank’s only Medal of Valor winner, Larry M. Maxam, was something long overdue, and one of the best decisions made in years.  My only concern was naming a park after Robert ‘Bud’ Ovrom.  And while he did a great job as a City manager and created economic diversity through the many multi-tax revenue businesses that he brought into Burbank, he did his time and left.  He did not give his life’s work to the City, he just came in, did a job (albeit it great, but was he not paid well to do just that?), then left the City to take another job in Los Angeles.

So if there is someone who deserves to have a Reservoir named after him, it is Blais.

Being Burbank’s youngest Mayor back in the 50’s and continuing his quest into the 80’s foreseeing the benefits of recycled water, hopefully the Burbank City Council will also have a vision when it comes to the future of Burbank’s new gem on the hill, creating a new recreation facility that will last for decades to come.

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